It was back to work as usual.
As expected, there was no hangover, no lingering effects of last Saturday night’s loss, the first defeat in almost three years.
Instead, this weekend was just more of the same results that have become a normalcy with the Penn State women’s volleyball team.
The No. 2 Nittany Lions capped off the Rockvale Outlets Classic on Saturday night with a commanding win against St. John’s (25-11, 25-15, 25-5) at Rec Hall. Penn State also cruised to easy victories against George Washington on Friday and Princeton Saturday morning.
Penn State outscored its three unranked opponents by a combined total of 225-90.
“Our goal this week in practice was kind of just to turn it around from obviously a tough day against Stanford last week,” senior libero Alyssa D’Errico said. “So, everybody just kind of stepped up a little bit, and we focused a lot on becoming better as a team and supporting each other.”
Senior Blair Brown led Penn State with 30 kills in the three matches, while freshman Deja McClendon added 25. The Lions also blocked well, especially Saturday night, when they tallied 16.5 blocks in the sweep.
D’Errico, who had five service aces Saturday night, said looking back on the Stanford match, the Lions realized they left some of the younger, inexperienced players out to dry. This year’s starting lineup features three players that weren’t in the starting lineup during last season’s national title run, including McClendon and junior Katie Kabbes, the two outside hitters.
McClendon and Kabbes bounced back from rough outings against Stanford, though, and Brown said the team’s cohesion was much better this weekend, but the team still has room for improvement.
The loss to now-No. 1 Stanford might end up helping Penn State in the long run as a learning experience, D’Errico said. The libero said when the Lions lost to Nebraska and Stanford her freshman year, it was the best thing that happened to the team. Penn State went on to win the first of three-straight national championships that year.
“It’s probably one of the best things that could’ve happened,” D’Errico said of this year’s loss. “Not that I wanted to lose or we gave them the match in any way. Looking back, it still hurts a little bit and it sucks, but it’s definitely a learning experience and we’re going to use it for the end of the season when it comes time.”
With the Lions’ nonconference slate finished and conference play starting Friday, the competition gets tougher. Penn State will be tested right away, as it opens on the road against No. 5 Illinois.
“We know that we need to be a lot better when we go to the Big Ten season,” Brown said. “I think this week in practice is really going to be a big test for us. We need to pick it up in practice so that we can pick it up in the games.”